A genre of show I traditionally avoid is the drama series that focuses in on a different single character each episode whilst some bigger picture runs in the background. It is hard to classify this type with a name – stories from previous and future episodes run in the background too much for each to truly stand-alone, but a single story dominates each one too much for it to be a traditional soapy-drama.

Yet my dislike has been softened by Ordinary Lies. The series revolves around the staff at a car showroom. As the title suggests, each episode revolves around a lie. The first episode focused on popular but unreliable salesman Marty, played by Jason Manford. A fraught home life was impacting on his professional one, and in a bid to save his job lied that his wife had died.

Of course, there was something bigger at play than bumbling idiot solves small problem by making a bigger one. Marty was in the grips of a mid-life crisis, with a permanently ill wife and a job that had lost its pleasure. Even though his actions were at times rotten, both Manford’s portrayal and the writers scripting gave you enough sympathy for him for you to want the resolution to be happy. Who hasn’t looked at the life they have made over the past couple of decades and wondered ‘Is this it?’ Marty wanted love and sympathy, so invented a situation where he got them, even if he failed to value what he did have.

This failure to value what you’ve got, and the damage you cause reaching for something more, was also the central theme of episode two. Receptionist Tracy, dreaming of a life of luxury, agrees to a do a drug run along with a friend in order to earn the cash for the things she wants. The friend, who was always the more unwilling to be involved, is caught, and Tracy is left with the dilemma of shopping those responsible, including herself, to help her friend’s plight. Michelle Keegan, in her first post-Coronation Street role was centre-stage, and held up well as heroine. However, you came away with less sympathy for her character, perhaps because her ‘needs’ that spurred the lie were material as opposed to emotional or psychological.

Meanwhile, in a big story arc building up to the final episode is the case of a missing husband and an affair between the wife and his boss. Soapy yes, but somehow more satisfying than some of the more challenging fayre served up by some other channels. I haven’t been completely won over by the genre – we are expected to let Marty’s story to take a back seat when there is arguably still more to tell – but this seems to be one of the stronger examples. Watching good people do bad things is so irresistible.

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